Traditionally, construction of a given facility is largely based on two dimensional architectural plans. In the past, there were a myriad of challenges that accompanied this kind of construction. With the rapid growth in the construction industry, there have emerged systems that make the process of construction fast and efficient.
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Some of the processes that were made part of the construction industry include building information modelling (BIM). Adoption of the process in the mainstream construction supply chain management has improved the industry.
The current paper revolves around this adoption. The writer starts by putting construction supply chain management into perspective.
Construction Supply Chain Management
Numerous suggestions are put forward in attempts to define the concept ‘construction supply chain management’ (herein referred to as CSCM).
Bennet (2011, p. 34), for instance, opines that the concept describes a venture that aims at maximising the utilisation of all aspects related to supply and manufacturing in the correct quantity.
In the same vein, Hardin (2009, p. 69) defines construction supply chain management as a series of events in an organisation. The events are part of the whole production process, starting with the inception of the facility and all materials involved, to the end users and products delivered at the last phase.
Harden attempts to describe the concept as the process that brings together the construction personnel, as well as direct and indirect stakeholders involved in the chain.
Different constructors like Hardin (2009, p. 47) opine that several factors are involved up the whole process of construction supply chain management in the field of construction.
The initial stage involves the desire of the client to initiate a structure. Various orders follow suit in an attempt to meet the needs of the client. The orders include design, construction, maintenance, repair and, finally, demolition of the facility.
In the current competitive world, construction, as a market, has increased considerably. A lot of challenges have emerged in attempts to cope with the rising demand for construction services.
Bennet (2011, p. 29) contends that there is need to incorporate various factors in the field of construction. The construction process includes the integration of building information management into supply management.
Building Information Modelling
According to Eastman (2011, p. 14), BIM is a scenario that encompasses the virtual representation of physical information. The process comprises of all functions in a given facility, from conception to the last phase of the lifecycle.
BIM is used by many stakeholders in the construction industry as a source of knowledge to make decisions regarding the performance of the facility during its entire life cycle.
Eastman (2011, p. 30) opines that, traditionally, physical and functional representation was achieved through two-dimensional planning. As such, it was difficult to come up with various validation activities, making construction a tedious and challenging venture, especially when erecting complex structures.
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However, with the introduction of BIM, the construction activities can go beyond the three dimensional planning.
Before elaborating much on the use of BIM, the author of this paper will describe the concept of construction supply chain management in general. The author will highlight the impacts of technology on construction supply chain management. Various aspects of the same will also be put into perspective.
Use of Technology in Construction Supply Chain Management
Many researchers agree that the impacts of technology on the construction supply chain management are remarkable.
Cooperation Research Centre for Construction and Innovation [CRC] 2007, p. 59) supports these sentiments by contending that the value of technology has reduced the number of cycles involved in the construction process.
“Integration” is an important phrase in this concept. To this end, such scholars as Bryrd & Turner (2011, pp. 170-73) concur that the process requires the merging of a multitude of operations to achieve the intended outcome as far as construction supply chain management is concerned.
As aforementioned in this paper, competition poses a challenge to this industry, especially if the correct channels are omitted from inception to demolition stage.
As suggested by Bryrd & Turner (2011, p. 74), technology is an added advantage in the construction industry. It is a strategy that can see the industry through a competitive world (Eastman & Teicholz 2008).
Mismanagement of materials poses a threat to the entire process of implementing the actual project. CRC (2007, p. 61) argues that the whole process brings together a number of participants, each carrying out different activities aimed at achieving the end goal.
As such, complex interactions, as well as interfaces, are experienced in the entire project. Bryrd & Turner (2011, p. 169) appreciates the complexity of the construction process and recommends for integration, as opposed to carrying out the process independently.
Carrying out the process independently will render the whole construction undertaking inefficient.
With regard to technology itself, Al-Mudimigh & Ahmed (2004, pp. 309-311) argue that the gap between the construction process and supply chain management is wide.
The reason is the large number of stakeholders that play a role throughout the process. They termed the phenomenon as a form of deficiency in supply chain management, which affects the industry, especially in the modern era.
Deficiencies in Supply Chain Management
The environment within which the construction projects are implemented keeps changing with regard to supply chain management.
In addition, clients need extra unique services to meet their targets and to remain influential in their operations. The process is characterised by information gaps as the project advances (Dean 2007, p. 88).
According to Jernigan (2007, p.103), the tools used in construction are limited to the ‘distribution nature’ of the operations. Recent developments have seen the introduction of various gadgets perceived to solve major problems in the construction industry.
One of the new developments in the industry is the introduction of BIM, which was mentioned earlier in this paper. The author will now focus on BIM as an instrument used in improving construction supply chain management processes.
Benefits of BIM to the Overall Executive Manager
The CSCM process is faced with a lot of challenges due to the ‘distribution’ nature of its processes. Technological interventions to solve the stagnation of the process are required. BIM, as a technological tool, has solved various issues as far as CSCM is concerned.
In his book Building Information Modelling, Dean (2007, p. 106) argues that with the help of BIM, all activities pertaining to CSCM flow efficiently. The integration of the system into the mainstream construction process is highly celebrated by stakeholders in the industry.
For instance, in the past, the industry was struggling to promote the use of two and three dimensional plans. However, with technological innovation, constructions can move from one dimensional plan to the other with ease (Eastman 2011, p. 58).
In the past, detecting clashes within the CSCM posed a challenge to the engineers. With the introduction of BIM, effective teams are modelled and made part of the supply chain. Complex designs are tackled with ease. The concepts of a given construction are presented in a digital form.
Levy (2011, pp. 309-310) describes the process as a ‘virtual representation of design’. It is at this point that possible challenges are analysed before the project is implemented (Woo 2006).
BIM is preferred for its ability to limit expenses incurred by the client, especially with regard to those activities that do not add value to the process. Druck (2011, p. 104) opines that integration of BIM into the process helps by maximising production.
It is argued that the success of a supply chain is determined by the value of production. In this case, production capacity is acknowledged in construction cycles (Leite 2011, pp. 605-606).
According to Leite (2011, pp. 607-608), BIM provides the constructors with an avenue to exploit the contents of the design itself. The exploitation helps in distributing supply chain processes throughout the entire construction. For instance, tendering and procurement are effectively managed with the use BIM technology.
BIM provides the clients with adequate information as far as costs are concerned. Clients demand for updated information, as well as accountability, throughout the whole project.
BIM provides stakeholders with an avenue to track down all the procured items by ensuring that all processes follow a laid down order without deviating from the norm (Levy 2011, p. 318). With the help of a virtual model of the project, clients can make conclusions and determine the approach to be adopted in the whole process.
According to Jernigan (2007, p. 81), project control encompasses the utilisation of resources to accomplish given goals. Generally, a project is a short- lived process, which is described by Jernigan as time-constrained. As such, operations during the construction period are handled carefully to meet the required targets.
The difference between construction projects and other forms of business is the temporal nature of the former. In this case, special considerations are made with regard to the use of BIM in an attempt to analyse the process.
In practice, the use of BIM ensures all the resources procured at various stages are utilised according to plan. To this end, effective management strategies are paramount to enhance the quality of the whole process.
However, the constrained nature of the project is a challenge to the managers in the sense that there are stipulated goals that need to be achieved. According to Yezioro (2008, pp. 612-6130), there are three major project control requirements.
The requirements touch on the scope, time schedule, and the allocated resources with regard to the project. All these factors call for a controlled project operation.
As far as BIM is concerned, project control is achieved by establishing a ‘harmonistic’ environment that guarantees effective cost management. Project control indicates the costs incurred at various stages of the construction process.
The project control accounts for all activities accomplished. It helps in highlighting any possible unwanted costs that may be incurred (Kymmell 2008, p. 18).
Another important aspect in project control is the use of multiple accounting systems (Kiziltas & Leite 2009, p. 62). The systems are used together to avoid additional data between the processes. The use of multiple accounting systems minimises time wastage and helps in the elimination of minor errors.
Yezioro (2008, p. 91) opines that project control is a very fundamental procedure in the CSCM. A lot of information is gathered in a construction site, which is important in managing daily activities on the site. Information gathered touches on amount of hours worked and nature of equipments needed on the site.
Production analysis and project control are important to avoid wastage of material and time. There are other areas in the construction process that benefit from project control. They include time management, accounting, and resource tracking.
Cost Reduction in CSCM using BIM
Many clients and construction personnel appreciate the importance of BIM in averting over- expenditure in all phases of the project’s life cycle.
Experts in construction management like Weygant (2011, p. 109) opine that the reason why information is integrated into the construction process is to establish a platform that allows for the effective management of life cycle costs.
With the use of BIM platform, Weygant agrees that all information contained in the virtual system is utilised to the maximum. It helps to avoid unnecessary expenditure during the entire cycle of the project.
According to CRC (2007, p. 118), innovation related to the establishment of BIM in the construction industry has led to significant reduction in costs. For instance, energy costs and swift maintenance response are calculated to make sure unnecessary expenditures are avoided.
Under normal circumstances, risk management calls for preparedness. However, with the use of BIM, disastrous risks are analysed in the virtual system and potential sources minimised.
Challenges Associated with the Use of BIM
There are several challenges experienced when BIM is used. The author of this paper acknowledges the increasing popularity of BIM with regard to its use in CSCM across the market. Technology needed to support the use of BIM is rapidly growing, making the innovation more popular.
However, in spite of all this, several challenges have befallen the use of BIM. For instance, such scholars as Krygiel (2008, p. 71) identify three categories of technical challenges associated with the use of BIM.
The first revolves around interoperability. To this end, Krygiel (2008) is of the view that the use of BIM is not extensive enough to generate defined data. It leads to stagnation or errors in the process.
The other challenge as explained by Kymmell (2008, p. 11) revolves around the need to optimise project control and allocate inputs to meet the stipulated objectives.
Some inputs will address the needs of various stages ineffectively, leading to stagnation of processes. Project control helps by summarising all sequences to avoid stagnation.
Another major challenge experienced when using BIM is the inability to compute digital or virtual data generated.
Inability to compute such data has created a myriad of problems, leading to over-expenditure or deviation from the designed objectives as far as the project cycle is concerned (Krygiel 2008, p. 119).
Integration of BIM into the Construction Project Life Cycle
Integration of BIM into the construction project cycle is a fundamental aspect in the construction industry. According to Smith (2009, p. 201), the integration has allowed for a transitional process that has seen the reduction in the number of challenges encountered in the industry.
In the past, information from the architect, such as digital data, was not shared with the contractors. As a result, a lot of discrepancies were noted throughout the stages.
Application of BIM in delivering and presenting data in various stages has created a concession between different stakeholders. The development is unlike in the early years when each stage was implemented independently.
According to Underwood (2009, p. 93), integration creates a link between the processes associated with initiation of information, assessing, and simulation. The life cycle of CSCM contains a wealth of information that is correctly managed with the application of BIM software.
Various models are evident in the construction lifecycle. They include, among others, design, production, commissioning, operational, and demolition models.
Each model provides guidelines that help in taking the project from one phase to the other. Smith (2009, p.183) affirms that design model is conceptualised in such a way that it takes the project into the production model. On its part, the building model is linked to all operations pertaining to maintenance.
Up to this point, the writer has noted several aspects related to the adoption of BIM in the construction industry. The writer has explained the importance of adopting the BIM software in all life cycles. All the cycles in the life of the project are related to each other.
Discussion and Conclusions
The adoption of BIM with regard to CSCM is gaining ground in the construction industry. The use of BIM enhances the management of projects in the construction industry. Adopting BIM in the industry has improved the efficiency of all the operations in the lifecycle.
In addition, the adoption allows for predictability as far as the future of the project is concerned. Predictability helps in identifying potential challenges, all the way from the design stage to the demolition stage (Kymmell 2008, p. 139).
The use of BIM enhances cooperation among stakeholders at all stages of the CSCM. Effective collaboration in the lifecycle of the construction project improves time management, increases profits, helps in cost reduction, and strengthens relationships between different parties.
The adoption and use of BIM technology can prove problematic in cases where data ownership is in dispute. For instance, data created using BIM is highly disputed with regard to the actual owner of the design. It can extend to disputes over property, a phenomenon that is mainly associated with BIM.
The use of BIM has created a paradigm shift in the CSCM arena. The shift has encouraged the participation of all stakeholders from inception to demolition stage. The participation has created an environment conducive for all individuals working at different stages of the process.
In the past, different stakeholders had their roles misplaced. In addition, it was hard to specify the roles of all stakeholders involved at the various stages of the project. Lack of specificity led to role conflicts in the industry.
Before the introduction of BIM, it was difficult to share information between the contractors, especially during the initial stages of project implementation. Information generated by the digital architects and the contractors was not shared with other stakeholders, posing a challenge to the entire cycle.
Errors were made, reducing the performance of construction workers. Sharing of information has increased the success of CSCM processes, thanks to BIM.
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